Summertime Fishing in the Upstate

By Karl Ekberg

The sounds of fireworks pop in the night skies, while the sound of poppers, dancing across the back eddies of the river, break the silence during the day. Bright colors of the poppers that are tied on the end of the leader remind us of the colors which lit up the previous night’s skies. Most of the time during a holiday, there is much solitude to be found along the rivers, as the holiday festivities fill up the time slot of fishing.

Sneaking out for a few early morning hours, or a couple late afternoon casts can be a rewarding piece of solitude. There’s no need to haul a lot of gear; a small popper box, a leader, wading boots, wet wading socks, and your favorite four or five weight rod and off to the river for some Bartram’s bass, redbreast sunfish, and an occasional trout that just cannot resist a top water delicacy.

Summertime fishing along the Chattooga and Chauga are great top water days for the warm water species. Wet wading is a bonus this time of year, along with a quick swim on the hotter days to cool off, carrying extra fluids is a must to keep hydrated. There is no need to worry about it being too hot for the Bartam’s bass or panfish; this is their time of year.

Looking for back eddies and slower moving currents are the targets for these gems. The redbreast sunfish, truly looks like a fish direct from the tropics, in their fiery vibrant orange fronts, with exquisite blue coral masks braided from their lips back. As for the bass, even the smallest of the yearlings to the two year olds will rise from the depths to crush the top water offerings of the day. Over-hanging trees, shrubs, and bushes offer great ambush points below the surface of the water for bugs, beetles, and fly imitations to drop into.

Let’s not worry about delicate fly presentations, as if presenting to wary, skittish trout. A more deliberate splat on the water is preferred—almost like the dinner bell has sounded. And larger is not always better for these fish, as the diet is of creatures falling from above, so leave the lake tackle at home.

For the early summer trout fishing, temperatures through mid-June have still been quite mild, as evening temperatures were still dipping to fifty degrees, along with cool seventy-degree days. Although water levels were low in June, early morning and evenings had been best to fish for trout. This trend will continue for July, as long as the “big heat” does not happen, and if the temperature does start climbing, higher elevation creeks will be the best bet for trout. Once the water temperatures reach the mid-sixties, it is time to leave the trout alone in that body of water and either move to a cooler creek or stream or start fishing in lower sections of a stream or river for the bass and panfish.

Summertime brings a lot of guests to the National Forests, State Parks, and all the rivers and waterways. Let all of us remember to “Leave No Trace”, and it doesn’t hurt any of us to carry out a little more than we walked in with. The outdoors will be a little better for the future.

Karl and Karen Ekberg are co-owners of Chattooga River Fly Shop, located at 6832-A Highlands Hwy, Mountain Rest, SC 29664. Give them a call at (864) 638-2806 and visit their website at